Leeds school protester ‘accepts’ head’s apology after he calls Palestinian flag ‘a call to arms’


The mother-of-one who protested outside a school in Leeds after its headteacher called the Palestinian flag a ‘call to arms’ has accepted his apology. 

Yasmin Ahmed, 30, was pictured outside Allerton Grange School on Monday with a placard bearing the Palestinian flag and the message: ‘This flag is not a ‘call to arms’. This is a symbol of freedom and self-determination.’

Headmaster Mike Roper was forced to apologise for making the ‘foolish’ comments during an assembly in which he said that some people felt ‘threatened’ and ‘unsafe’ whenever they saw the Palestinian flag. 

A clip from the assembly circulating online showed him telling pupils that the flag was sometimes ‘seen as a message of support of anti-Semitism’. He added: ‘It was never meant to be like that in the first place.’

Protesters gathered outside the school on Monday while an online petition calling for Mr Roper to resign has gained more than 500 signatories. The school has said that it had faced a ‘social media barrage’ and will host a ‘fully impartial’ whole-school lecture on the crisis in the Middle East. 

Ms Ahmed, from Leeds, has since accepted Mr Roper’s apology. 

She told the Times: ‘I’m certain the head had no intention of causing such huge offence and he has now apologised, which I accept so long as there is no repeat of the kind of language he used.’

Yasmin Ahmed, 30, was pictured outside Allerton Grange School on Monday with a placard bearing the Palestinian flag and the message: ‘This flag is not a ‘call to arms’. This is a symbol of freedom and self-determination’ 

Protesters gather at Allerton Grange School in Leeds, West Yorkshire

Protesters gather at Allerton Grange School in Leeds, West Yorkshire 

A clip from the assembly circulating online showed Mike Roper (pictured) telling pupils that the flag was sometimes 'seen as a message of support of anti-Semitism'

A clip from the assembly circulating online showed Mike Roper (pictured) telling pupils that the flag was sometimes ‘seen as a message of support of anti-Semitism’

She added: ‘We went to demand an apology and action to be taken by the school, which has happened, and to give the pupils some confidence and extend solidarity so that they feel enabled to express themselves without being bullied.’

On Monday, police were stationed outside the school as protesters gathered at the gates, waving Palestinian flags and chanting.

Last week’s assembly is understood to have been held to try to address tensions after some pupils were disciplined for wearing lanyards bearing the flag.

Ms Ahmed previously told the Telegraph: ‘The kids at that school were displaying the Palestinian flag in a peaceful way to make a statement about how they felt about what is happening over there, and to display their anger and their solidarity.

‘For the headmaster to then issue a video saying that the Palestinian flag is a call to arms and a symbol of anti-Semitism was shocking and inflammatory.’ 

A clip from the assembly circulating online showed him telling pupils that the flag was sometimes ‘seen as a message of support of anti-Semitism’

A clip from the assembly circulating online showed him telling pupils that the flag was sometimes ‘seen as a message of support of anti-Semitism’

Yasmin Ahmed, 30, from Leeds, said Mr Roper’s comments were ‘shocking and inflammatory’

Yasmin Ahmed, 30, from Leeds, said Mr Roper’s comments were ‘shocking and inflammatory’

On Monday police were stationed outside the school as protesters gathered at the gates, waving Palestinian flags and chanting

On Monday police were stationed outside the school as protesters gathered at the gates, waving Palestinian flags and chanting

In the video, Mr Roper is heard saying: ‘When I spoke to them they were so articulate in how they felt about innocent people in the Middle East and how they were being treated. 

‘But the problem is by using a symbol such as the Palestinian flag that message is lost because for some people they see that flag and they feel threatened, they feel unsafe.

‘They worry because for other people that flag is seen as a call to arms and seen as a message of support of anti-Semitism, for being anti-Jewish and it was never meant to be like that in the first place.’

He says he has asked students not to use symbols or flags ‘because it is causing a lot of distress to students, particularly minority students’.

A joint letter from the school and Leeds City Council was issued, in which Mr Roper apologised

A joint letter from the school and Leeds City Council was issued, in which Mr Roper apologised

A joint letter from the school and Leeds City Council was later issued, in which Mr Roper apologised for his comments.

He says: ‘In a diverse school like Allerton Grange, with such a rich mix of communities, it is not surprising that divisions on the international front will be felt within our school. It was in an attempt to address those tensions that I gave an assembly to all students on Wednesday morning. 

‘I am deeply sorry that a particular example I used in that assembly, referring to the Palestinian flag, has caused such upset within the community. 

‘That was never my intention. The full message shared with students last week praised our students’ passion for their views and beliefs. 

‘It set out how we want to work through the issues highlighted with our students in an informed and respectful way.’

In the local Roundhay ward, 12.7 per cent of people are Muslim and 2.4 per cent Jewish, according to the 2011 census. 

The national averages are 5 per cent and 0.5 per cent respectively. 

Allerton’s Ofsted report, which rates it as good, notes: ‘This is a multicultural school and pupils enjoy the diversity.’  

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